We Are What We’re Surrounded By

School started again. I was in a conversation with a few co-workers about the best elective class for a particular student who has had more trauma in his short life than many of us combined.

One of the newer teachers chimed in: “Oh. So he has a reason to be like that?”

Separately, I was having a conversation with a woman whose children are grown. Her kids grew up happy, the family got along, she and her husband had a strong marriage. The kids have often mentioned that it wasn’t until they were in college (in most cases) that they realized that not everyone’s family was like that.

The same can be applied to the other end of the spectrum. “How can they think that being in a gang/getting pregnant in high school/not parenting their early-teen-aged kids is a good idea?” Because that’s what is familiar. It’s what they know.

If it’s all you’ve ever known, then it’s “normal.” Everyone has a reason (or two) that they’re “like that,” whether the “like that” is functional or dysfunctional.

The same is true of eating habits, exercise habits, interpersonal habits.

If you come from a home where your parents fought all the time, you’re likely to believe that that’s how marriages are.

If you come from a meat and potatoes kind of family, you’re likely a meat and potatoes kind of eater, or you were.

Now, at some point, we (hopefully) realize that not everyone is like we are. Sometimes we decide to continue to be like ourselves. Sometimes we decide to change. Sometimes life strongly encourages change (which sometimes we resist and sometimes we go with).

Regardless, we tend to surround ourselves with people who we are like. Or we’re like the people we’re surrounded by.

This is why addicts coming out of rehab โ€” or former contestants on popular weight-loss TV โ€” often have so much trouble maintaining what they’ve accomplished. They go back to “real life” where their family, friends, lifestyle are the same as they were when trouble started. It is between difficult and impossible to maintain a new lifestyle living in the confines of one’s old life.

If you don’t want to be a drinker, hanging out with people who drink a lot is probably not a good idea. At the very least, it’s going to test your willpower.

Surround yourself with people who are like you want to be, or who are on the same path of change. It makes the process easier.

It was five or six years ago that I started reading one or two personal finance blogs. In that time, my thinking about money, making money, spending money, paying interest, having debt, etc. has changed quite a bit, and for the better! I attribute that to “surrounding myself” with good information on wise financial decision-making, budgeting, etc. Read, read, read, and eventually, “I need to try that” or “I want to be like that” or “I can do that.” And as I’ve read more, other things to read have popped up. And so it spreads.

The same thing has happened with healthy eating. And with the proliferation of chemicals in our day-to-day lives. By this point, two things have happened:

  1. I don’t search for much new information โ€” it comes to me. I’ll look for confirmation or back-up, but that’s all. “Where do you find this stuff?” Inbox, RSS, Twitter, Facebook. Sometimes too much.
  2. Since this is the space I live in, I forget that not everyone knows things that I consider basic information. Like how to read a label on a food product.

Find something that sparks your interest. See if you can find a blog or two, or an online publication that fills that interest. Read it. Click on links. Read more. See what happens. I bet that over time, if you keep doing it, it changes you.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy Ziegenhorn on 4 August 2011 at 07:51

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

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